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One Client’s Pursuit of Perfection Tests a Store’s Accountability and Customer Trust

Should the salesperson have let this client walk rather than setting the diamond?

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IN THE CHARMING town of Crystalville, there resided an individual whose determination was matched only by his meticulous nature. Ethan, a forward-thinking millennial engineer, had embarked on a journey that both puzzled and impressed the jewelers in the community. With each entrance into a jewelry store, he brought not only his laptop but a carefully constructed spreadsheet, meticulously cataloging every diamond he encountered. His mission? To unearth the ultimate diamond that would enrapture his girlfriend’s heart.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual jewelry businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Megan Crabtree is the founder and CEO of Crabtree Consulting. Before founding Crabtree Consulting, Megan had a successful professional career in the jewelry industry, which culminated with high-level positions at several of the top firms in the retail and manufacturing sectors. Reach her at mcrabtree@crabtreeadvisory.com or visit us at www.crabtreeadvisory.com where you can set up a live chat or a 30-minute free consultation.

 

Ethan’s analytical approach left no stone — or diamond — unturned. Although he had scoured every corner of the internet engaging in online chats with e-commerce representatives, his quest for the perfect diamond extended beyond online shopping. He traversed city lines and spent hours visiting multiple brick-and-mortar stores, leaving no jeweler unconsulted.

After doing his research, Ethan decided on working with his local jewelry store, Gleaming Gems Emporium. He visited the store no less than five times and each time engaged with Lily, a courteous sales representative, in extensive dialogues centered around the intricacies of diamond quality. His pride shone through as he presented his thoughtfully constructed Excel sheet, featuring a dazzling array of diamonds shortlisted for consideration. Among these, one particular stone beckoned: a 1-carat G color, SI1 clarity diamond, listed on a reputable e-commerce platform at a surprisingly modest price of $2,980. To the experienced eyes of Lily, the price tag raised questions. Diamonds with similar attributes on their shelves were priced at nearly three times that amount.

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Lily patiently explained the differences in grading standards, the value of family-owned businesses, and their attractive trade-in policies. Over the course of Ethan’s visits, she established a rapport and managed to convince him of the Gleaming Gems Emporium’s credibility and expertise while subtly shifting the balance between values and cost.

During what seemed to be his final visit, Ethan’s gaze alighted upon an eye-catching ring that harmonized perfectly with his criteria. Lily breathed a sigh of relief as he agreed to place a deposit on both the ring setting and the diamond, giving himself 10 days to make a final decision.

When Ethan returned to finalize the purchase, he divulged that he had encountered a “more favorable offer” elsewhere and presented a diamond he had obtained through a personal connection. As Lily and Ethan examined the diamond together, Lily’s expert eyes zoned in on a few inclusions, one of which was hanging out rather uncomfortably at the 9 o’clock spot. It looked like a fracture at first glance, which set off some alarm bells. Lily took the time to highlight this concern, mentioning the potential risk of the diamond giving way during the setting process. Despite the risk, Ethan consented to have Gleaming Gems Emporium’s jeweler incorporate the newly acquired diamond into the setting he purchased from their collection.

During the setting process, catastrophe struck. The diamond fractured further at the exact site of the natural inclusion. The jeweler’s heart sank, realizing that Gleaming Gems Emporium’s reputation now hinged on this unfortunate mishap.

The intricacies of the store’s internal procedures suddenly took center stage, revealing a subtle chink in the armor. The diligent Lily, who had been a guiding light throughout Ethan’s journey, now found herself entangled in an unexpected twist. While orchestrating the repair, a seemingly small but pivotal step had been overlooked: obtaining Ethan’s signature on a waiver that recognized the inherent risks that come with setting a diamond bearing a natural inclusion. The absence of his signature manifested in an unfortunate and expensive accident that now demanded a delicate resolution with the customer.

The Big Questions

  • Do you believe Gleaming Gems Emporium should bear the full burden of the accident, or does Ethan share some responsibility for his decision?
  • Do you think Lily should have agreed to arrange to have a diamond set that was not from their store?
  • How could the use of standard operating procedures help prevent such incidents from happening?

 

Gabriel A.
Los Angeles, CA

I don’t have a store, but we are manufacturers and mount customers’ stones all the time. I do not believe it is fair for the store to be responsible for the damage on the stone. However, if there is a lawsuit, then the store will be liable for the full replacement value because the waiver was not signed. To me, it’s very simple: Whoever owns the stone must assume the risk and every store needs to make sure those waivers are signed. Otherwise, it’s not worth taking such a high risk. This was $3,000 dollars, what if it had been $50,000?

Tom W.
Honolulu, HI

Apologize. Listen to Ethan and do exactly what he asks. Best advertising money ever spent!

Jeremy A.
Los Angeles, CA

The store is 100% liable for the broken diamond. While the sales associate pointed out the potential risk of setting a diamond with a fracture, she never stated that if the diamond is damaged in any way that it is not the store’s responsibility. Having standard operating procedures in place helps sales associates make decisions without having to refer back to management. They know the answer and can avoid problems before they arise. Owners know these types of customers, and you should have certain procedures in place to deal with them. Little repairs, small custom orders, etc. You cannot have a customer like this eat up your time, it’s not fair to you! I know everyone wants to be courteous and kind — we all fear a bad Yelp review or bad word of mouth — but you must protect your time and reputation as a fine jewelry store. Be kind but decline to service his request. Learning to say no is hard but necessary.

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Garry Z.
Chicago, IL

This is a problem that should never occur in any jewelry store that regularly handles repairs. Every time we receive a piece of jewelry, we write down what is left with us, any comments such as concerns and limitation of liability, and we always have the client sign off on what is written, including any comment that we may add limiting responsibility for the work. We also require that the client state a value for all merchandise left with us, and it’s stated on our form. This limits any liability for insurance purposes as well.

In this case, Ethan will deny that he was told of the possibility of damage and will hold the store completely liable for this damage, not sharing in any of the costs. Verbal acknowledgement is worthless, it must be in writing. After his meticulous, exhausting search, the headache will continue as he attempts to locate another acceptable diamond. Hopefully this store maintains proper insurance coverage for situations just like this, which would offer some relief for the hit.

Eric L.
Allentown, PA

While I feel sorry for Lily’s store, they screwed up and owe Ethan a diamond. Backing up, we would have walked away from this after his third visit. You need to take the engineer to the emotional. A great question I learned years ago for this scenario is to ask the engineer if he can write a formula for love. Did he do this kind of research to find his lifemate? I asked ChatGPT to write the formula for love, and even it couldn’t do it.

P.S. The story mentioned he found a “reputable internet site,” REALLY?

David B.
Calgary, AB

Lily made an error, and the store has to pay for the diamond. Or replace it. The problem is not only that Lily failed to tell Ethan that they would only set the diamond at the customer’s risk, but she took a client that is a problem from the start. Some clients are not worth the profit. How many times has INSTORE featured an article that says, “Divorce the customer”? This was a perfect example. Should have passed on this one. But now the store has to pay for the break.

Buddy B.
Wynnewood, PA

First off, it seems the associate spent a lot of time with this client until he finally agreed to put a deposit down, and then 10 days later he comes in with a diamond he bought at another store and wants you to set it. You examine the diamond and find a potential fracture. In my store, I would have explained the risk to the diamond in setting it. I would have sold him my mounting and let him have the store who sold him the diamond set it. If you decide to set it, you assume the risk unless you told the client you were not responsible if the stone was damaged during your store setting it. If you did not advise him and sign the disclaimer, then I would say you have to make this good.

Peter T.
Show Low, AZ

The question of responsibility lies with how emphatic Lily was when she discussed the large inclusion. If she only casually mentioned it, I’d think the store should replace the diamond. If she was emphatic, then the customer is fully responsible. It’s probably somewhere in between.

The diamond endured cutting so it very likely broke because the jeweler got a bit clumsy (yeah, I can say —I’m a jeweler, and in my half century on the bench, I’ve gotten a bit clumsy a few times). If this issue happened at my store, I would probably offer a new diamond (same quality) for half of retail. A final thought would be that if Lily had pointed out that this was an I3 diamond (a much lower grade than the SI1 Ethan had been viewing), she might have saved the sale and not had to deal with the broken stone.

Marc M.
Midland, TX

Ethan is a real diva and not worth the time Lily wasted on him. I’ve met with similar people and politely sent them on their way. These are the kinds of impossible customers that you can never make happy, and they will never be satisfied. They will waste your time and drive you nuts! And for what? A 1-ct., G color, SI1 clarity diamond? Ha! Now that’s ridiculous. Dude is acting like this is a 5-ct., D color, flawless, type II diamond. Unfortunately, I think the store is stuck with the full replacement at this point. I think the moral of the story is don’t set diamonds for people who are clearly a pain in the A$$.

Skylar C.
Marysville, WA

I believe the responsibility lies both on Gleaming Gems and Ethan. Lily told Ethan verbally that the stone may give way during the setting process. Despite that, he proceeded. Gleaming Gems is partially responsible because the waiver was not signed. Also, the bench jeweler could have been more careful when setting the stone, perhaps making sure the inclusion was not underneath a prong, as the pressure from the prong could have fractured the stone.

I don’t think it’s a problem that Lily agreed to set the stone. She was up front about the risks and gave Ethan all the information he needed to make an informed decision.

When taking in any job, especially a stone setting job of a large diamond, there should be detailed notes on the envelope stating that there’s an inclusion. The bench jeweler will use the envelope as a guide for deciding the best plan of action for the work that needs to be done. Additionally, enforce the original procedure of signing a waiver.

Miluska O.
Miami, FL

We encountered a similar situation where we had to exchange the diamond for another equal (which was a loss of money for the company). As a result, we implemented a policy of only accepting diamonds that are part of our inventory.

Bruce B.
Cleveland, OH

The store should have advised this customer that this unfortunate problem could happen, and therefore, refused to assume any responsibility. Or better yet, pass on the setting of this diamond. The profit in the mounting was not worth the risk. The customer should have been told that this diamond they chose had the possibility that even in the future the stone might develop the same end. I would hope the high road was for the professional jeweler to shine by offering sound advice to not buy that stone in the first place.

Roger P.
San Francisco, CA

First, she should have told him they were going to set the diamond at the customer’s risk, and if he didn’t agree, have the other jeweler set it. Why should she take a chance like that? And when you have a customer that is a pain, and the amount of time he spends to find the diamond and the setting, for such a small sale it is not worth it. When you take a job that you think is risky and is not your items, make sure that your client knows that you won’t be liable.

Bruce A.
Sherwood Park, AB

Unfortunately, failure to obtain the customer’s signature seals the store’s obligation and responsibility. Though this is not part of the question, I believe the worst is yet in store with this customer. With the level of research he already revealed in his quest for the perfect diamond to represent his LOVE, replacing this will be a nightmare!

Patty K.
Florence, AL

One will never profit from this type of client. We would have sent him on his way at the first glance of the Excel spreadsheet. Lily’s time alone was not worth what little profit was to be made even before the accident! Additionally, somehow potential clients that fit this model always end up in disaster. It’s not worth subjecting you and your employees to the frustration, and it certainly isn’t worth risking your company’s reputation! We all make mistakes, and Lily was likely frustrated, which caused her oversight! Retail can be a tough game; we are trying to listen carefully to our gut reaction! And this guy makes me queasy!

Dianne H.
Eldon, MO

They should have refused to set the diamond in their mounting. Also, having a plan set in place (we have one NOW) to have the customer sign off on any damage to their stone during setting or thereafter. You know it’s going to crumble sooner or later! A suggestion to the customer is to have the diamond set by the person who sold it to him!

Mark S.
Plantation, FL

Having gone through this exact same scenario, it really hurts. We chipped a 1-carat princess cut that had an inclusion in the point of the stone. It was GIA I1, and we replaced it with a GIA SI2 for the client. If we had had a signed disclosure, I would not have replaced it, but our sales associate forgot to inform the client about the risks since she was so excited to finally make the sale. If the same scenario presents itself, and the sales associate forgets to have a signed release signed, we call up the client and inform them of the risks, and we email them a release to sign and email back. If that is not done, we walk away from the sale of the mounting. It’s rare that it happens, but it does, and I don’t care to have it happen again to us.

Trisha C.
Osterville, MA

Spreadsheets?? Oh hell no!!! A little education does not make an expert! Hell, some with a lot of gemological education are not experts!! Ethan needs to stop looking at his laptop and look at diamonds up close and personal, which is the best way to buy diamonds! The fact that he bought another diamond elsewhere but wanted them to set it was ballsy since he had picked out a diamond with Lily but got a “better deal.” I would have sold him the mounting and told him to have the diamond set where he got the diamond, especially after Lily explained where the inclusion was and explained what may occur when setting the stone. I feel bad for the jeweler and store. Now they have to replace the stone, and Ethan probably thinks it was done on purpose (most do) so that the store would have sell him their stone. Ethan wasn’t looking for a perfect stone, just a good deal — or he would have shopped in person.

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Joseph V.
Austin, TX

Gleaming Gems Emporium should bear the “full” burden of the accident. After all, the client was warned. Therefore, the client should bear some, if not all responsibility. We have all experienced similar requests to set a gemstone not belonging to the merchant. It can be difficult to say “no” to a client, as we truly want to help the client.

For us, the decision to set an outside stone is decided on a case-by-case basis. If we feel the stone is not right, then we respectfully decline to set the stone. Our policy is the same for setting any stones that are not ours. Should we decide to set an outside stone, then our standard operating procedure (SOP) is to have the client(s) SIGN A WAIVER releasing us and our stone setters from any and all liability.

At the end of the day, the use of SOP is there to protect the merchant and the client. Therefore, Lily should have followed proper procedure to avoid such a dilemma.

Joel M.
New York, NY

When we set a diamond not purchased from us, a waiver is always obtained and signed that if something happens, we are not responsible. Seeing the imperfection at 9 o’clock should have had that waiver or not take the stone in at all.

Ralph H.
Connersville, IN

At about the third visit, they should have given him a “collectors” copy of an old Alfred E. Neumann cartoon book and suggested that the people who sold him the stone should take responsibility for setting the darned thing. Sorry, but he wasn’t really buying a gift; he wanted to convince himself that he’d beaten the “evil retailer.” This is right up there with “can you size my micropavé million diamond ring” with almost no gold left holding the miniature gravel in place. Computers permit our trade to do things that should not be done. OK, do be nice, even to these guys, just be sure you have your disclaimers in place and up to date. Oh, maybe show them an old A. Jaffe and Son diamond ring — you know, the one your grandkids’ grandkids can inherit (I mean the ORIGINAL A. Jaffe and Son!). It was nice when the rep came around; Viv gave him the entire order verbally, including their style numbers (yeah, she was that good!).

Stuart T.
Reisterstown, MD

There is no action to take other than replacing the diamond. When she saw the inclusion and its location, that was the time to tell the customer about the risk and what would happen if something happened during the setting of the diamond. The train left the station on this one.

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